Two Kinesiology students push the needle in concussion recovery

Undergrads presented at athletic therapy conference, set to publish findings

Industry professionals, researchers, and professors recently took to the stage to share their latest findings at the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (CATA) Conference in Ottawa. Acadia students Kristen Hardy and Lauren Manson, both pupils of Dr. Lauren Lattimer in the Athletic Therapy program in the School of Kinesiology, were selected to present research abstracts at the event. The two not only stood out for their impressive respective work in concussion assessments; Kristen and Lauren were also the youngest researchers to deliver their findings – and the only people still earning their undergrads among a sea of PhD candidates. 

Acadia’s Athletic Therapy program aims to develop clinicians who utilize evidence-based practice. By engaging students in research in the program, undergrads can identify knowledge gaps, form (and sometimes answer!) relevant clinical research questions. The research opportunities not only create an enhanced learning environment, but the findings from those studies could also help support the profession's advancement. In Kristen and Lauren’s case, their respective research into sport-specific concussion assessments could be applied to prevent athletes from experiencing further harm and speed up their recoveries. 

“Kristen and Lauren have independently sought better ways to assess how well different athletes are responding after they've had a concussion,” explained Dr. Lattimer. “Concussions are a brain injury that can impact a person's ability to think clearly and do everyday tasks. Some studies have shown that problems with balance can stick around even after other symptoms of a concussion go away. Both Kristen’s and Lauren’s work are uncovering different ways to make objective clinical assessments."

 

Kristen Hardy presented, “Exploration of the Effects of a multimodal postural control intervention on male varsity football athletes.” Put simply, Kristen’s research included a five-week study of university male football players who needed to improve their balance after experiencing a concussion. Kristen measured different balance exercises to see how effective they were in assisting the participants in their rehabilitation, performance in football, and decreasing risks of injury. The findings may help future therapists identify the most effective balance exercises for both recuperating from and preventing future concussions. 

Here’s what Kristen had to say about the experience of running this study and presenting at the CATA Conference: 

“Dr. Lauren Lattimer provided me with the incredible opportunity to complete this research at Acadia University. She taught me how to create a study, with pre- and post-testing and calculating data. Acadia University provided me with the space and opportunity to meet my peers and professors who helped me to conduct this work.  

Having the chance to speak at the CATA Conference this year was an incredible experience. My presentation pushed me to be out of my comfort zone which then allowed me to grow and feel more confident in myself. It allowed me to share my research and ideas with others in this field of work.”

 

Lauren Manson’s “A Pilot Study to Explore Postural Sway in University Male Hockey Players” takes a new approach to understanding concussion incidents that occur on the ice. Lauren performed concussion tests with hockey players while they were on skates, which provided a more sport-specific environment, giving better results when compared to traditional concussion tests. The information Lauren gathered can be used by athletic therapists in their diagnosis and management of concussions, as well as their return-to-play decisions for hockey players. 

Lauren also had very positive things to say about getting the opportunity to work with Dr. Lattimer and present at the CATA Conference. 

“The experience was great. It really opened my eyes to the fact that if something piques my interest, why not see it through? Dr. Lauren Lattimer really guided me through this and helped fine-tune everything. She was the backbone to this project, and this could not have happened without her! Having a lab like we do at Acadia is a huge privilege, and I’m lucky to have been able to do this.  

Doing the workshops and listening to the presentations was so cool, and my presentation went well. I was introduced to someone at the conference who has begun doing more in-depth research in exactly what my research focused on, which is amazing to see. It’s important that we better understand and minimize the risk of concussions; I hope to help make a difference for athletes impacted by them.” 

In addition to overseeing the research and providing guidance along the way, Dr. Lattimer attended the conference with Kristen and Lauren. She got to enjoy watching the presentations and hearing the terrific feedback from colleagues in the industry. 

“Kristen and Lauren’s work was well received. To be selected for an oral presentation, especially given that the rest were done by PhD faculty and graduate students, was outstanding,” said Dr. Lattimer. “Several Athletic Therapists and academics from across Canada approached me after their presentations saying how impressed they are of the quality of work and ability of our students that presented.” 

In addition to presenting their research at the CATA, both Kristen and Lauren will have the distinction of having their papers published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Athletic Training. 

As for what’s next for the two Acadia students, it appears that the sky is the limit.

“I’ll be writing the athletic therapy certification exam this month, and hopefully getting a job with a university, team or clinic. I can see myself going on and doing a masters,” said Lauren. “There are so many opportunities and interesting things to research that it makes me excited for how the next five to ten years will look for me.” 

Kristen is just as open and optimistic about her future.  

“I would love to continue my research after taking a year off school to gain some working experience,” said Kristen. “I believe concussions are a large and growing topic and more research to discover ways to help individuals get back to what they love is extremely important and something I want to be a part of.”  

“I want to thank Dr. Lauren Lattimer and Acadia University for providing me with the incredible opportunity to learn, grow, and explore my interests in concussions in the athletic therapy world.”

Get the Acadia experience with Dr. Lattimer


If you’re interested in taking a class at Acadia University with Dr. Lattimer in the future, she typically teaches KINE 3053 Advanced Human Anatomy, KINE 4843 Assessment and Rehabilitation of the Spine, Hip and Pelvis, KINE 3413 Assessment and Rehabilition of the Lower Extremity, KINE 3063 Athletic Therapy Practicum 1, and KINE 3073 Athletic Therapy Practicum 2.  

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